Dominique Leone, Abstract Expression, Important Records

album_abstract_largeDominique Leone has deliberately crammed so much trebly left-field sonic fiddle-faddling into his new album Abstract Expression that it often overshadows the rigorous 70’s AOR-indebted songwriting going on under, over, around, and through each track. It makes for an overwhelming and sometimes exhausting listen, but I’m pretty sure that’s part of the initial point. This isn’t an album that’s meant to be fully digested in one sitting, but one that clearly benefits from the hindsight and expectations that repeat close listening brings.

In execution, many of the tracks straddle the audio territory between the wonky rolling Supertramp synths of the late 70’s and the frantic vocal pitch weirdness of early 80’s Lindsey Buckingham. At the end of the day though, this album winds up reminding me most of Frank Zappa’s ping-prog musical runs and studied and mathematical attempts at whimsy during the 70’s and 80’s. It sometimes sounds as if Mr. Leone sat down with a calculator and attempted to recreate with scientific precision the type of insistent cracked-genius-at-work mindset that begat such classic coke rock clusterfucks as McCartney II and Beach Boys Love You.

And it would almost work if not for Leone’s nasal and sometimes grating vocals and his reliance on meta-cute lyrical ploys: there’s a song about Nellie McKay, the last track is titled “The End,” and there’s talk of wanting to “marry this song.” Still, it’s a testament to his musical abilities and wealth of ideas that Abstract Expression is never boring. At their best, his tracks sound like Yes covering Macca’s “Temporary Secretary”; at their worst, they sound like the Mungolian Jet Set (with whom Leone has collaborated in the past) remixing Atom and his Package. If he let his tracks breathe a little bit more and maybe worked with another vocalist–or at least toned down the cutesy lyrical content–he could really make something we could all get behind. But I don’t think critical consensus matters much to Mr. Leone. He’s probably perfectly content to have made the type of compelling curiosity that is destined to be viewed as an under-appreciated classic by some, an indulgent misfire by others. I stand conflicted.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply